Plan for sport and leisure facilities across Falkirk district rejected

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A proposed radical change at Falkirk Community Trust has been rejected by opposition members of Falkirk Council.

However, the decision not to give the go ahead led to Council Leader Cecil Meiklejohn saying she was disappointed that councillors on the opposite side of the chamber refused to back the plan.

She attempted to allay concerns about lack of consultation by saying communities would have an opportunity to have their say on what was being proposed.

Chief executive Kenneth Lawrie’s report was asking councillors to look at ways to reduce the subsidy it gives to FCT by £5.3 million over the next five years, with a shake-up that included investing millions to modernise assets such as the Mariner Centre, to enable it to run without subsidy.

Councillor Meiklejohn said taking the advice of the report would allow them to make investment and ultimately improve facilities and she condemned the opposition parties for not offering an alternative to the vision.

The report, made public last week, sparked anger by highlighting other ways to save money included closing buildings that were in a bad state of repair and using volunteers to run key community trust venues.

Following a three-hour long debate, Conservative councillors refused to back such a major plan without more consultation and financial detail and supported a Labour amendment that urged a delay until “full engagement and consultation takes place”.

Labour group leader Robert Bissett said: “The £5.3 million of savings we are talking about are effectively cuts, which will have an impact on communities.”

Conservative councillor John Patrick was concerned that the report was asking endorsement for investment of between £30 million and £50 million, and said he could not support a plan with such a lack of financial detail.

Labour councillor Joan Coombes blasted the administration for using “double speak”.

She said: “The key line in this proposal is ‘function with significantly reduced funding’.

“These investment proposals are a prime example of doublespeak – don’t mention the communities who will suffer from loss of facilities.”

The SNP group put forward a motion supporting the report although they did not back one of its proposals, closure of Denny Sports Centre.

Councillor Meiklejohn told the chamber they could not back this because it had never been suggested before.

Her SNP colleague Fiona Collie said she hoped there would be a way to get funding from the IJB, the body that brings together health and social care, to support the trust’s work getting local people healthy and fit.

Speaking after the meeting Conservative councillor Lyn Munro said she thought the proposals would have had more support if they had been communicated better.

Councillor Meiklejohn later said: “What we had in the Chamber today were Labour and the Tories joining together to block a £50 million investment programme when they them selves did not come up with anything by way of an alternative.

“The lesson we learned from ten years of Labour control was that nothing was delivered by way of new facilities to benefit our communities including Bo’ness and Denny.

“How galling it must be for communities that have been ignored in the past to have their dreams of up-to-date sports and leisure facilities snatched away by two parties who have merely acted in the manner they did in order to stifle the ambition of the SNP to prove we can do better in their collective efforts.”

The chief executive has been asked to bring a further report to council in September.